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[ABUJA] Agricultural research institutes in Nigeria lack vitality and have made little contribution to the nation's rising crop yields, a study has found.

The institutes suffer from decaying infrastructure and lack of staff, both of which are products of lack of funding, says a study conducted by the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute and the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN).

They are also failing to innovate, collaborate with farmers or monitor and evaluate their own work, said the study, which chose Nigeria because of the country's large, complex national agricultural research system.

It highlights that Nigeria has "no national agricultural policy or strategic plan as well as weak advocacy at the highest levels of government".

"Although research productivity seems high (205 technologies were produced by research institutes from 1997 to 2008, and the number of publications from 2007–2009 could go as high as one book and 14 journal articles per full-time researcher) about 70 per cent of these organisations do not have international research collaboration while 50 per cent have only regional or national research collaboration," it says.

The study also found that communication systems and facilities in the country's agricultural research institutes "are entirely inadequate. Several institutes are still not connected to the Internet, and none of their staff were directly connected to email."

Aliyu Abdullahi, head of institutional development at the ARCN, said: "Considering our comparative advantage and natural endowment and resources we are not doing alright when compared to other African countries … Our productivity is on the increase as a result of the land area under cultivation but considering yield per given area of land we are doing badly.

"Innovation is about transformation but evidence at all research institutes across Nigeria shows that the main ingredients needed to spur innovation are lacking."

Ademola Idowu, executive director of the National Horticultural Research Institute, said that foreign training and exposure were essential to enable Nigeria's agricultural researchers to compete globally.

Jide Ayinla, executive director of the Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research, called for more regional and international collaboration between institutes.

The study stressed the urgent need to support and strengthen means for fundraising; diversify fund sources; and support advocacy and negotiation for agricultural policy change and increased investment in agriculture and research.